Book Review: Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner
JL Markham's life isn't looking so good. Her best friend Aubrey doesn't talk to her anymore, her mother struggles with a dissociative disorder, and her father works on the other side of the country. The only connection she feels is to her butterflies and her boyfriend, Max Gordon. But Max is four years older than her and plans to leave as soon as he graduates. JL has to decide where her loyalties lie.
Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is a coming-of-age story about a girl learning to accept herself and grow through hardships. It's not a happy book by any means; the hard-hitting and sometimes sexual content makes the book more suitable for older teens.
The storyline focuses on mental illness and stereotypes about teenage girls, and while I appreciate the content, the story felt lacking in complexity. JL's relationship with Aubrey was the most interesting part of the book to me. I especially like how the entire book is written from JL to Aubrey as an explanation of how she's grown and changed. JL's voice is real and easy to empathize with.
I also like the motif of butterflies. JL's passion for butterflies keeps her grounded and tied to her family, and the butterflies are a fantastic representation of transformation. They are fragile yet resilient creatures, much like JL herself.
Jack Kerouac is an interesting feature of the story. JL hates him, and yet he has a significant effect on her life. She ends up acting like him without realizing it, which pushes her to realizes who she truly is and who she wants to be.
Overall, I found this book both enjoyable and tough to read. I wish the story was a bit more complex and nuanced, but it's still worth reading. I also wish the ending was more hopeful; Polisner ends the story on a light note, but there are still dark overtones lingering from the rest of the book. Although I like ambiguous endings, I wish this one was more concretely positive.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC!